Funnily enough, there is more than one way to say “no” in Cantonese depending on the situation and what you’re trying to express. In this post let’s explore the different ways to say NO in Cantonese.
唔係 (m4 haih) – No; incorrect
The first character is a fourth tone (mm) sound and when coupled with a verb is transforms the verb into a negative or the opposite meaning. For example,係 (is/to be) and唔係 (isn’t). The following is a fourth tone (haih) sound almost like you are saying “hi” but with a deep voice and essentially means “is” or “to be”. You’d use this to express that something is incorrect. For example,
“Is this fake?”係唔係假嘅?” (haih m4 haih2 gaa3 ge)? – “No.” 唔係 (m4 haih)
唔係呀 (m4 haih aah)
For added emphasis you can add an (aah) sound at the end. This can also mean “Are you kidding?” 唔係呀 (m4 haih aah). Of course, depending on how you say it.
冇 (móuh5) – Not have
This character is the replacement for 沒有 to “not have” or “not exist”. You’ll also see this character “無” (mouh4) which is used for more formal situations. It has a similar meaning of not to exist and is pronounced similarly but the a different tone.
唔得 (mm4 dak1) – can’t/unable to do
The literally meaning is to not be able to something for whatever reason. But I’ve also heard this being used for people expressing that they won’t do it or it’s impossible to do.
唔可以 (mm4 ho yih) -may not/cannot
This is similar to can’t or be unable to do, but it’s usually used if given instruction to someone else or to not allow permission to do. It’s a bit more formal than using 唔得 (mm4 dak1).
唔使 mm4 saaih – (no need /no use)
The literal translation would be to not use or to not have a use or purpose. So it’s often used to express not needing to do something.
唔要 mm4 yiu (not need/not want)
In this case, you would say mm4 yiu if you didn’t want something. One of my favourite phrases is “唔要罷就” (m4 yiu baah jauh) which basically means “Take it or leave it”.
唔想 mm4 seung (not want to do something)
I feel like this goes hand-in-hand with 唔要 because they are often easily mixed up! They both mean ‘to not want’ but they are used in different situations and have different nuances. Here, ‘mm4 seung’ is mainly used to express that you don’t want to do something.
Anything I missed? Comment down below!